Tuesday, November 29, 2005


In a comment to the previous post a reader wrote: most of my friends are reclusive and therefore they live alone (or words to that effect).

Oh yes. I know about people who live alone. It used to be said of them that they turn weird after 40. That they are like only children – less competent at sharing time and space with another. Is this true?

In recent years I have met loners (those that live alone by choice) and I’m beginning to think that their single status is much underappreciated.

Oh now don’t start picking on me for being anti-coupling. I have lived far far more years as part of a couple than alone. So clearly I see its virtues. Someone cooks, someone cleans the dishes. Someone asks a question, someone answers it. Someone picks up the kid at school, someone picks up her medicine at the drugstore. It’s a project. So now that I have officially come out as one who favors couple-hood, let me get back to the loner.

Is there something to be learned from a person who rejects partnership? Is it like someone who rejects religion in that both view themselves quite capable of moving from corner one to corner two without additional assistance? Or are there other methods that loners incorporate into their game plan that are substitutes for the companionship of another?

The loner I know best these days would say that living alone allows him to eat milk chocolate whenever he wants to and sleep on the floor of a sheep shed if he so chooses. I believe he does both on a fairly regular basis. Of course, were I with a partner who wanted to eat chocolate and sleep in a sheep shed, I would probably insist that the shed be in the south of France and that we spend at least half a year in it. But that’s just me.

I called my loner friend just now to ask him what reason he would give for his, for the most part, loner status. It didn’t take him long to answer: I can get up at night and watch a bad video. I can hammer some and roast some chestnuts and then sleep a while longer.

Isn’t that selfish? I ask. I can also enter a situation, do some good and move on, he tells me. You think loners are weird? I think couples a weird.

I’m thinking about all this. I actually don’t think either are weird. I just think that loners get a bum rap in our world, that’s all.


  1. After the implosion of my last relationship I decided to live alone for the first time in my life. Everyone told me it would take awhile to get used to, and that I would probably hate it, but I lived in a beautiful tiny little apartment by myself for two years and remember it fondly as being two of the best years of my life.

    Moving in with my BF took some adjusting, and I think I even resented having to compromise a little bit. We managed to figure it out though.

  2. I am a loner, but only in some indeterminate, self-imposed retreat. I don't consider myself an adamant loner who needs extra space, or time, and yet I can be pretty happy alone.

    I like women for all the apparent reasons. I wouldn't mind having one visit from time to time, but I don't like how things go when I start making accomodations. They just seem to take over the domecile as if it were a birthright. If you kick them out they get their feelings hurt and never come back.

    Having guy friends over is okay until they start telling you how to arrange your welding tools, give unwanted advice, or psychoanalyze ya! What's up with that? Why can't a friend come over have a few beers, sing around a bonfire, then go home without trying to chain me up to a tree and bleed me into better health?

    Damn society all to hell!

  3. Asia: it’s interesting how loner-hood can grow on you. Few believe me when I tell them that it’s admirable and rewarding to live alone (absent the children thing).

    My post generated a link from Althouse who wonders, as society wonders, whether choosing to live alone is really a statement about not wanting intimacy. She couldn’t be further from the truth. In her comments section I reply:

    [My post has] no subtext. This conversation was with a person who never married, by choice. He moves in and out of relationships gracefully I would say. It's a lifestyle that I myself think is very appealing (for those without children) and underappreciated in our society where couples are the preferred alternative.

  4. I had an apartment all my own for 7 years, and I wouldn't have traded that time or space for anything. (Well, of course--except that technically I eventually did, when I got married more than a decade ago.)

    People used to ask me all the time if I was lonely, living like that. The answer was "never!", but I always found the question odd--as if they thought I had somehow been exiled, or couldn't find a roommate or something. I remember someone even asking, "well, where do you eat?" As if you can't shop and cook for one. Or that's it weird to do so, or worse, want to.

    Anyway, I loved this post and how you wrote it.

  5. I had the pleasure of having your post read to me by my lovely wife as I was sitting by a nice warm fire with a cat on my lap...

    Much like your photography just keeps getting better and better, I was really taken aback by how thoughtful, insightful and precise your choice of words were on such a complex subject.

    While normally I would be happy to see that your post was picked up on the Altclearinghouse blog, Ann surprisingly didn't get it at all, and instead essentially lashed into a personal attack on your blog. Of all people, you do not write "with rose colored glasses." Just think back to the sale of your house, that was the most raw blogging I have ever read.

    I am sure that the wonderful people who enjoy your blog every day understand and appreciate your excellent post!

  6. I've heard that 53 is the new 40, and that's when people who live alone turn really weird.

  7. reader_iam and saul: thank you. As Ocean is a kind blog, I offer no speculation as to why Ann sometimes thinks and writes the things she does.

    jeremy: I need you to clarify that. You mean people who turn 53 and have never lived with anyone up to then, don't you? don't you?

  8. I found what you wrote thoughtful and sensitive to both couples and singles. As one who has lived both relationships (though my many years of singlehood were with one delightful, challenging child), I have loved and not loved aspects of both. Perhaps some of the wisest advice that I ever heard on the subject (when I was too young to appreciate its wisdom) was to make the most of and enjoy whichever state you find yourself in at the moment. It has been remarkable for me to see my 86-year-old mother blossom in singlehood after losing her husband (whom she adored) of 62 years. The analogy for me is like your many journeys across the ocean, where you learn and discover more about yourself and your world, than if you stayed home in the same spot. Now coupled for the second time after a long period of being single, I find that each of us is able to maintain our single identity in significant ways not possible, at least for me, the first time.

  9. diane: yes, that fluid (and oh so welcome for me) movement, without prejudice toward either state (which is what the post was about) -- it makes complete sense to me. thanks for your note.

  10. Nice post, Nina. I'm 60 and have lived alone (with a couple of brief [six month] periods of co-habitation) since my divorce seven years ago. I'm alone, but not lonely. I like my life and am not looking to change it. Like your friend, I can stay up all night if I so choose, and often do. I eat what I please, when I please, and entertain myself as i see fit. I am never nagged. Well, maybe by my sons, but they do it gently and know when to stop. At this stage of life I don't see any changes in my living arrangement on the horizon. And frankly, I'm not looking to change!

  11. Saul, that was an awfully mean thing to say. Jeremy too. You misunderstand my take on this. I think Nina takes a literary stance here, which is perfectly fine, which is often to make things seem more beautiful than they really are. I see a different way into the material, which I explore on my blog, not to slam Nina, but to open out the discussion. I think the notion that this man just gracefully moves in and out of relationships is questionable and too glossy, missing some of the dimension of life.

  12. Ann, maybe your comment was not as harsh as I first read it to be... and maybe it was actually more friendly advice; so I'm sorry for trashing your blog. I do read it (and really don't read blogs, other than yours or Nina's). However, I thought you sounded a bit insulting, to the extent that you assumed that Nina couldn't view her own situation objectively. I think Nina's Eyes are Wide Open.

    I thought Jeremy's comment was funny and not mean in the least.

  13. I think it's terrific that a post, written in a musing if not amusing vein, quickly because someone was at the door, generated strong passions. I did not see deliberate hurt here, so I kept up all comments.

    I do want to defend my honor: this person being into this particular relationship SO is not the issue!There, my honor defended, let's move on and get our collective passions around the next post. Which has yet to be written.

    You're all swell.


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